It is now six minutes to midnight

Last Thursday the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock, the metaphorical clock that monitors how near humanity is to catastrophic destruction, was moved back one minute to six minutes to midnight. Pentagram marked the event in print

Last Thursday the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock, the metaphorical clock that monitors how near humanity is to catastrophic destruction, was moved back one minute to six minutes to midnight. Pentagram marked the event in print…

The Board of Directors and the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently agreed that the world is one step further away from annihilation and, in keeping with the tradition that has now seen the clock reset 19 times since its creation in 1947, moved the minute hand back, from five minutes to six minutes to midnight.

Pentagram’s response was to create a printed publication that would garner wider awareness of the Doomsday Clock project. According to the studio’s blog, a tabloid newspaper was “printed on inexpensive newsprint [and] it explains the purpose of the Bulletin and the Doomsday Clock in clear language and blunt, unadorned graphics.”

The clock, the studio continues, has “become a universally recognised indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences. It is the focus of the Bulletin’s graphic communications effort.”

In 1984 the Doomsday clock was moved to a nervy three minutes to midnight and reached the relative stability of seventeen minutes to midnight in 1991, when the US and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Since then, other issues such as an increase in global military spending and nuclear weapons testing has seen the clock reset to five minutes to midnight in 2007 (and now to six minutes to – thanks in part to an increasing awareness of the effects of climate change).

More at the Pentagram blog, here.

The origins of the Doomsday Clock as a graphic device are explored in an interesting piece by Michael Bierut over on Design Observer, here.

Martyl Langsdorf, the wife of the nuclear physicist Alexander Langsdorf Jr., was asked to create a cover for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ magazine. With input from Egbert Jacobson, design director of Container Corporation of America, Langsdorf came up with the image of the clock; in the first instance set to seven minutes to midnight, “simply because it looked good”.

In 2007 Pentagram suggested to the Bulletin’s publishers that the clock be used as the organisation’s graphic identity.

To get involved with the Clock Coalition and Doomsday Clock Symposium, go to turnbacktheclock.org.

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